Laurie Helgoe Ph.D.

Introvert Power

Forced Introspection: Appealing Fantasy or Horror Story?

A introvert's science fiction tale

Posted Jul 22, 2016

What if you were forced to spend two solid weeks alone, inside your own mind? How would you fare?

In our society, each new year is marked with a party and a 10-second countdown. Today, guest blogger and Introvert Power contributor Jonathan Kahn helps us imagine a society that marks the transition to the new year with a lengthy pause.  

Source: "Le Penseur"/Kaisching/CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Join four people in their two-week hibernations: Kim, a gamer who fills every moment with activity and chatter; Bill, an introvert who is hungry for solitude; Anne, a student who has just received good news; and Joe, a worker who has just endured a terrible argument.

Notice the environments each character creates. What would your interior landscape look like?

From New Year's Fortnight* by Jonathan Kahn:

The sounds of Kim struggling with the Facility Guards preceded her down the corridor. “No!” she shouted. “It’s barbaric! You can’t make me do it!” Her shouts echoed in the sterile space that wasn’t made to absorb sound, getting louder as she approached her destination.

Bill rolled his eyes and received a knowing smirk from Anne, who was already suspended in her tube across the corridor. This happened every year. Bill didn’t understand why Kim fought. Introspection was going to happen whether Kim liked it or not. The tube was for her safety. In the past, thousands of people had died every year simply because Introspection had started while they were still driving home from a party, taking a bath, or a hundred other things that could kill you if you fell asleep doing them.

The Guards managed to get Kim out of her cuffs and into her tube. It automatically began filling with the gel that suspended the body and partially paralyzed it, preventing injury. Kim quieted down immediately... 

Kim opened her eyes on a dark cell. There was just enough room for a creaky trundle bed and a nightstand. There was no door or window, and the only light came from an old TV atop the nightstand. Seated on the bed, Kim felt the springs through the thin mattress. Her usual sense of dread mixed with anger crept up her spine...

* * *

Bill tried to pinpoint the moment between the waking world and Introspection, but it was seamless. Light began peeking around the edges of his vision. His eyes were closed – when did I close them? – but he recognized the dancing light of his fireplace. The crackling sound of the burning wood faded in slowly. The background sounds of the forest where the mountain’s tree line began, a few hundred feet away, followed. He listened for a few seconds longer, and heard the slight burbling sound of the stream that flowed down the very bottom of the valley... 

Bill opened his eyes and found himself, as expected, in his study. Bill’s study was a tall, round room at the top of one of the corner towers in the imaginary castle where he lived during Introspection. It looked exactly the same as last year; everything right where he’d left it, and no dust. Bill never had much work to do during Introspection; he usually finished his Assignment within hours. But he never got so bored that he wanted to clean an imaginary castle. He liked the two weeks of solitude; it could prove difficult to find even an hour of it during the rest of the year...

* * *

Anne opened her eyes on the school library. Her first thought was that this had to go. It had seemed like a good idea for the past two years, as she had been focused on getting into the Medical College. It was just easier to do her assigned “homework” in a place where she was used to doing homework. Now that she knew she was in, the thought of spending any more time in a library made her feel queasy. In a flash, the library was gone. In its place stood a small cabin on a beach...

The cabin was furnished quite sparsely. Anne didn’t imagine she would be using the imagery again next year, so she didn’t feel the need to decorate. She did, however, have a small table in the kitchen. She sat down at it and unfolded the paper that held this year’s Introspection assignment. It read, “Learn to balance work and recreation. This will be much more important as you study Medicine.”

Anne laughed. Surely learning to relax wouldn’t be that hard. Would it?...

* * *

Joe sat on the dock, staring out at the unusually calm water. He felt anything but calm. Not only did he have a bad fight with his girlfriend right before Introspection, his Assignment was also at odds with his choice of recreation. Fishing was not something done for fun, at least not in Joe’s time. He hoped the government wasn’t in his head, and thought about his fight with his girlfriend. Looking despondently at the rowboat tied to the dock, he sighed and asked himself if he should even bother...

Now, his assignment was to work on, as only the Civic Leaders could word it, “not desiring stations in life different from the one granted you.”

*For the complete short story, go to newyearsfortnight.com

Food for thought: How would you anticipate a two-week introspection? With trepidation, terror, excitement? How would your life context play into the meaning of the introspection? How could you improve your "headspace" to make such an visit more appealing? Feel free to post your insights!

About the author: In elementary school Jonathan was frequently chastised for daydreaming too much, so he buckled down and earned a business degree. He is now an accountant in the American Southwest, but loves to read, write and travel, and aspires to become a full-time digital nomad. For more about Jonathan's writing, visit newyearsfortnight.com.